Is There a Buy Button Inside the Brain: Patrick Renvoise at TEDxBend (Transcript)

Patrick Renvoise

Here is the full transcript of author, a co-founder and Chief Neuromarketing Officer at SalesBrain, Patrick Renvoise’s TEDx Talk: Is There a Buy Button Inside the Brain at TEDxBend conference. This event occurred on April 6, 2013.

Patrick Renvoise – Co-founder and Chief Neuromarketing Officer at SalesBrain

I am a French nerd, and I have two passions in life, so I hope I can communicate this. I am passionate about the brain, and I’m passionate about marketing.

So the subject that I’d like to talk to you about today is: Neuromarketing. I became a neuromarketer twelve years ago, and in neuromarketing you have “neuro,” which means “the brain” and “marketing” as in: “I’m going to try to sell you something that maybe you don’t even need.” I believe it’s important for you so you can protect yourself against people trying to sell you something you don’t really need.

But as you’ll see, there’s an application to this, which, if each and every one of us really understood our reptilian nature, — I’m going to talk about the reptilian brain — if each and every one of us could understand our reptilian nature, we could change the world.

So what’s the definition of neuromarketing? Neuromarketing is the science of human decision, and it’s about using neurometrics, biometrics, and psychometrics to understand our behavior.

All right, don’t worry you’ll be able to understand the rest of my talk, because I’ll make this very clear: it’s all about understanding our brains, and understanding that maybe there is something that looks like a ‘buy’ button inside the brain.

Now, neuromarketing started because marketing does not work. Why? Well, here’s what we do in traditional marketing. In traditional marketing, we take our consumers, we take our customers, and we ask them: “What do you want?” And based on their responses, we’ll build a product, we’ll build a strategy to sell that product.

But do you know what is the far more problem with this approach? Guess what? Guess what? They don’t know what they want! So, it doesn’t work. Right?

So instead, in neuromarketing what we’re going to do is this: We’re going to ask them, “What do you want?” but we’re not going to trust their answers, because we know they don’t know. Instead, we’re going to look at various physiological changes that happen in their body, when we ask them this.

So there’re various techniques that are being used. One of them is called facial coding. We’re going to measure the emotion that is being displayed on their face, by the 60 muscles that control our faces. We’ll be using an eye tracking to figure out exactly where they’re looking at in an image. We’re using voice analysis, well, but we’re not going to pay attention to the words they say, but we’re going to pay attention to their tone of voice.

Then we’re going to be using the old lie-detector. It’s called the skin conductance test, where we measure the heart-rate, the blood pressure, and our electricity flows between fingers. Then we are going also to use an EEG, or electroencephalogram, to measure the small currents on top of our skulls.

And then another technique is called the MRI, with that we measure the amount of oxygen that’s being consumed by the brain in various regions of the brain. So that’s what people do in neuromarketing. I happened to be an expert in applied neuromarketing.

So what do we do in applied neuromarketing? We look at how neuroscientists tell us about how certain stimulus provide a certain response, and can you guess what response we’re trying to get from consumers? [Audience: Buy Patrick]

Yes, we want them to say “Yes” or “Buy”. Right. So today is the first day where I address consumers, because normally companies hire me to be on the other side of the fence. So I’m going to reveal to you their secrets. Is that good enough? So let me give you an executive summary of what we know about the brain.

What we know about the brain is that, you don’t have a single self. You have three selves. First you have your neocortex, or your new brain, and that’s the rational self. Now if you take my model here, this is the neocortex. It’s the outside, the wrinkly pinky part of the brain.

But then deeper inside you have another self which is your emotional self. Which tends to be located here in what’s called the middle brain. But deep down, further below in the brain, is your reptilian brain, and that’s your instinctual self. And here’s what neuroscientists have discovered over the years. Is that, our instinctual self, has a greater impact on our final decision than the rational us, or even the emotional us.

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So what should we do with this? Well, we should listen to those people that are the experts. So here’s what one of them says, his name is doctor Rapaille, he’s a neuroanthropologist, and he says, “The reptilian always win!” And then this guy who teaches neuroscience at NYU says, “The amygdala,” which is part of the reptilian brain, “has more influence on the cortex than the cortex has on the amygdala”

And then this guy who won the 2002 Economy Nobel Prize said, “Although system 2,” which is the neocortex, “believes itself to be where the action is, the automatic system 1,” the reptilian brain, “is the hero of the book most people choices correspond to the predilection of system 1.”

So what I am here to tell you is that, we are reptiles. Not that we didn’t know it. Since, you know, Darwin, we’ve learned about this, but, people use this against us to sell us stuff we don’t need!

So let’s look at the difference between you new brain and your reptilian brain. So these are some of the characteristics of your new brain, let’s contrast these with what happens in your reptilian brain.

First of all, your reptilian brain is very old, it’s 5 million years old as opposed to only 3 to 4 for the neocortex. The reptilian brain is very fast but it’s very limited. Because I didn’t want to use another “S” word. It’s kind of stupid. Your reptilian brain doesn’t have any notion of past or future, it only lives in the present. It’s the brain that is always on.

So that if there is bear that enters the caves you can wake up. It’s a brain that is effortless. You don’t have to think about it when you ride your bicycle. You know you keep you balance. It’s a brain that is unconscious, you don’t have to think about it. Your reptilian brain controls your digestion, your blood pressure, your heart rhythm, et cetera. And then finally, it’s a brain that is completely uncontrollable.

So I want to show you now couple of images or ideas or exercises, and you’ll see that you’ll use one different brain to process this. So if I show you this, this is an exercise for your reptilian brain. Instantly without any effort, you kind of create meaning out of this image.

Now how about this one? Try it, guys. All right. That takes effort, that takes your rational brain, and it takes time to process that question. Now I want to show you that I can create conflicts in your brain now, by showing you images which are illusions.

So, you may have seen that one last year. But is this a spiral or are these circles? So everything in your brain right now, is telling you, this is a spiral. Yes? But guess what? These are circles. These are perfect circles, yet everything in your brain, your reptilian brain tells you, these are spirals. Let me show you another one here.

Which one of those two squares between A and B is darker? What? Come on! Can anybody see that B is darker than A? No. Anybody thinks that A is the same color as B? Well the answer is A and B are exactly the same color. Yet everything in your brain is telling you that A is darker than B. So it’s very easy to fool your reptilian brains.

So I want to do another exercise. I am going to ask you to read out the colors in the words that are coming out. And we’re going to do this as a group exercise. So I want everybody to focus.

I am going to use the pointer and we’ll all read at the same time the color of the words, not the letters. Okay. Here we go. So everybody.

(Audience: Red, white, green, blue, black, green, red, brown, white, blue)

Okay, you’re doing a 100%, you’re doing it very good guys. I’m going to make it a little bit more complicated. Now we’re going to keep the same exercise, I want you to read out the color of the words. Ready? Here we go.

(Audience: White, green, black, red, black, green…)

Okay. You’re not doing so good on that one. I want to tell you I thought I was going to meet a lot of smart people in Bend, obviously there are exceptions.

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Anyway, I was able to create conflict in your brain by showing you two different things. Your neocortex is trying to do one thing, your reptilian brain is trying to do something else, and it creates conflict.

So, then if the reptilian brain plays such an important role in what we decide, what stimulates the reptilian brain? Well there’re only six stimuli to the reptilian brain. So let’s review them one by one.

The reptilian brain is self-centered. It’s all about me, me, me. How do advertisers use this against us? Well guess what? Look at this advertising. What did they do? To get to your reptilian brain they shoot that picture from the view point of the rider of that bicycle. So in essence when you see this ad, it’s you riding this bike. What else did they do? They use the word “You” when they communicate to you.

So for example, “Obey your thirst” “I want you” “You’ve got 30 minutes” “Do you Yahoo?” And, “You just do it”

Second stimulus is contrast. Contrast as in before-after Warm-cold, Night-day. So here is an ad which uses contrast to get to your reptilian brain. You see instantly, – this an ad for yogurt – you see the contrast between the kid’s bone and the big elephant bone. And it’s an ad which is selling you the idea of, you know, using calcium, so that you build strong bones.

How about this one? I’m sure you’ve never seen that one before. The guy without the hair and the guy with the hair. Do you know why this one works? Because they use contrast to get to your reptilian brain.

The next stimulus is tangible. What that means, is the reptilian brain barely understand words, so it has to have very tangible concepts to understand it. How do they use this? Reserved for drunk drivers. You see how they made it tangible. How about this one, Mr Clean, Get it? They made their value proposition tangible.

The next stimulus is beginning and end. What that means, is the reptilian brain is awake at the beginning of an interaction, and the end, and it forgets pretty much everything in between. In fact here’s what George Lucas said, “The secret to a good movie is a hot opening, a hot close, and don’t screw up in the middle” Because what happens in the middle doesn’t quite matter.

Then the next stimulus is visual. In fact, if I take my model of the brain here, you’d see that the optic nerves plug directly into the reptilian brain. And the optic nerve happens to be 50 times faster than the auditory nerve, the nerve from the ear to the brain. So let’s see how they use this in advertising. This is an ad for a yoga club.

Do you see how they make their value proposition become visual? They explain to you what they can do for your body. What about this one? This one is for a cosmetic surgery center in Canada. Pretty good to make it visual, right?

And the last stimulus is, emotion. So let’s see how they use this in advertising. Don’t talk while she drives. Are they talking rational here or are they talking emotional? What about an ad to help you stop smoking? In several countries now around the world you have to have those pictures on the packs of cigarettes. So, now you’re going to tell me great, does this apply to other areas of life?

Because I have applied these to marketing and I again help people sell you lot of stuff that you don’t need, but does these have other applications to life. So let me tell you what the problem they were having at the airport in Amsterdam at the urinals. They had a lot of leaks.

So knowing that the reptilian brain is visual, what do you think that could have done to help that problem? Give me ideas? Here’s what they did. They printed a fly in the middle of the urinal which apparently helps men be better at aiming. As a result, they reported an 80% decrease in spillage. Guys, this is not science-fiction, this is true stuff.

Make it visual. How about better eating? Imagine if you were the director of food services in a school district, and you had to feed 2000 kids a day. Knowing that the reptilian brain works with beginning and end, what could you do to help your kids eat more healthy? What could you do? Very simple, just change the order of the food, and it can impact its consumption by as much as 25%. So put the bad food in the middle. Put the vegetables and the fruits at the beginning and at the end.

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What about drinking? How could you use contrast to help people drink less sugar for example? Well, guess what? If you serve in tall glasses, people have a tendency to pour less. Why? Because it creates the illusion to your reptilian brain that you’re drinking more. So not only kids but even bartenders ending up pouring less in tall glasses.

Now what about driving? This is a very famous turn on the Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. They have this really long stretch of road where people were starting to speed at, and they have a very dangerous 25 mile turn here.

So knowing that the reptilian brain loves tangible input, what could you do to help people slow down? Now they had tried everything. They had tried the flashing signs, they had tried a lot of stuff. Here’s what they ended up doing. I don’t know if you can see it well, but on the street they ended up printing some bars on a road, but the key is that those bars are getting closer and closer as we get to the turn. So it’s creating the illusion to your reptilian brain that you’re speeding when in fact you’re going slower and slower.

Pretty good. How about if you want to decrease energy users, and knowing that the reptilian brain loves emotion what could you do? Any idea? Here’s what they did. By simply informing people of the average consumption of their neighbors, people started to use less. Because we want to conform, we want to belong. And guess what? Something even more incredible happened than to those people that had reduced their consumption by 35%. They put a smiley on their next invoice.

And just getting a smiley helped people further decrease. So, if you can create an emotion with smiley guys, can you imagine what we could do? So what I’ve done is I’ve translated those six stimuli, and I teach this around the world, into four steps for marketers. I can’t tell you what they are because they pay me for this.

No, actually, the four steps are: You have to diagnose the pain of your customers, in other words, you have to truly understand what makes them tick at a reptilian level. In other words, not what they want, that’s not important, but what pains and fears do they have in their subconsciousness.

The second thing is you have to differentiate your claims. In other words, you have to look like the only red apple among blue apples.

The third one is you have to demonstrate the gains. So whatever you sell them, you’re going to take them from a painful situation to a less painful situation, and that’s that delta we would call it the gain.

And the fourth step is, you have to deliver to the reptilian brain. So I even published a book on this. The book can be summarized in a map, and the end of that map as you can see is that elusive ‘Buy’ button. So, what if we all knew about the reptilian brain? What would that mean for teachers? I believe that if teachers understood the reptilian brain of our kids, we would have better education.

I also believe that if judges understand better the nature of the reptilian brain, we might get better justice. If parents were aware of the reptilian brain, we may have better families. If singles were aware of the reptilian brain, we may have better relationships. If doctors were aware of the reptilian brain, we may have better medicine. If filmmakers were aware of the reptilian brain, well, they do, we would have better entertainment.

And if marketers were aware of the reptilian brain, well, it’s my job. So this was the definition of Neuromarketing when I started. That definition words intended for your neocortex, so most of you probably didn’t understand what it was, but neuromarketing is really about finding that ‘Buy’ button. Thank you very much.

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